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NCC board to meet on 'personnel matters'

Donald P. Astrab, president of Nassau Community College,

Donald P. Astrab, president of Nassau Community College, in a February 2011 file photo. Credit: Handout

Nassau Community College's board of trustees plans to meet Monday on whether to offer college president Donald Astrab a separation agreement to end his embattled tenure, a school official said Saturday.

The high-level college official said the board would discuss the plan in executive session and likely vote on the departure deal.

"They've been negotiating this since early July," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A public notice emailed about the meeting late Friday afternoon said the agenda included "personnel matters with respect to the Offices of the president of Nassau Community College and the Executive Vice President of Nassau Community College."

Executive vice president Ken Saunders was expected to be appointed interim president during the search for a new president, the college official said.

Geoffrey Prime, chairman of the board of trustees, said Saturday, "I am unable to say anything further on these matters until the board has had its discussion on Monday morning."

Efforts to reach Astrab and his lawyer were unsuccessful.

Details of the proposed agreement were not available.

Nassau lawmakers and County Executive Edward Mangano have no role in the decision and have not been notified of any severance package, county spokesman Brian Nevin said.

"However, County Executive Mangano opposes golden parachutes funded by taxpayer dollars," Nevin said.

The college, with 23,000 full-time and 15,000 continuing education students, is funded one-third each by Nassau County, New York State and revenue from tuition, which costs $3,990 per year.

There are 10 seats on the trustee board, two of which are vacant. Six votes are needed to end Astrab's employment with the college and approve severance pay.

Astrab, 54, came to Nassau from Brevard Community College in Florida in 2009 to eventually succeed Sean Fanelli, NCC's president for 27 years. Astrab took over the presidency in February 2010.

His compensation includes a salary of $230,000, health benefits, a retirement account, and a campus house and car.

The faculty twice voted no-confidence in Astrab, once in June 2011 and then again in September 2011. The reason, critics said, is that Astrab violated a longtime tradition of including faculty in decisions on the academic direction of the school, severely damaging morale.

Last year, amid a budget crunch, the college cut 40 full-time faculty positions and some temporary jobs.

Legis. Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck), former chairwoman of the now disbanded Education Committee, said Astrab was dealt a difficult hand.

"He tried to bring more financial responsibility to the college during challenging financial times," Bosworth said. "And so he ruffled some feathers."

Kimberley Reiser, academic senate chairwoman at Nassau Community College, said there has been speculation for more than a week that the trustees would take action.

"I am pleased that the announcement [of the board meeting] has finally been released, but I am disappointed that it was released around 5 p.m. on Friday for a 7 a.m. meeting on Monday and furthermore, I am concerned that there is no mention of a public session."

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